In an effort to support employees who have experienced pregnancy loss, Channel 4 recently launched a dedicated pregnancy loss policy. As the first major organisation in the UK to do so, it has started an important conversation about whether more businesses should follow suit.
Currently, there are no mandatory employment policies in place that directly relate to pregnancy loss. Although paid parental bereavement leave was introduced in April 2020, it only applies to the death of a child under the age of 18 or to stillbirths. Therefore, those that have gone through a miscarriage or abortion are left without set support.
A stigma still surrounds the topic of pregnancy loss and often leads to parents keeping the news a secret. However, in recent months, high profile figures such as Meghan Markle and Chrissy Teigen have shone a light on the subject by stepping forward to share their personal experience of miscarriage.
New Zealand also introduced statutory leave following pregnancy loss, involving three days of paid leave. Although not overly generous, it is a start in recognising that pregnancy loss is a type of grief at any stage and has also helped to bring the issue to the forefront of the political agenda.
Introducing a pregnancy loss policy
When implementing something as sensitive as a pregnancy loss policy, a number of considerations must be made:
- Inclusivity – The offer should be extended to fathers and those using a surrogate to avoid discrimination claims.
- Eligibility - Employers must decide whether the pregnancy loss policy will apply from day one of an employee’s contract or not.
- The length of the leave – Channel 4 has opted for two weeks, but this is entirely up to the employer.
- The rate of pay – If statutory pay is preferred over full pay, then it must be decided which statutory pay the policy will coincide with.
- Notification - Perhaps the most delicate aspect of this policy, it must be treated with the utmost sensitivity. A doctor’s note may be required as proof, or the employee can self-certify.
Returning to work
The return-to-work process must also be considered. Offering a phased return or flexible working ensures employees can take things at their own pace. Even smaller allowances such as more breaks throughout the day or not having to use video during calls can help staff to feel more comfortable.
Employers may also choose to provide support in the form of counselling or pregnancy loss resources. Sensitivity from staff at all levels is vital, so it may be worth including pregnancy loss in any equality and diversity training that takes place.
Opening a line of communication with the workforce when creating a pregnancy loss policy can also help to ensure that it meets the needs of employees.
Hopefully, a pregnancy loss policy will rarely be used, but it is important to set expectations around the issue. Introducing a dedicated policy can help promote a positive workplace culture, leaving employees safe in the knowledge that work won’t have to be a worry should the worst happen.
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